12 August 2011

Made for You and Me.

Have you ever read a book that touched you so deeply, you can't even pinpoint or intelligently articulate what it is about it that resonates or stays with you?  Back in May, I wrote about the magical experience of having Maine author Caitlin Shetterly attend a home gathering of those who had read her book "Made for You and Me: Going West, Going Broke, Coming Home".  Last evening, I had the distinct pleasure of seeing her do a reading of said book at Kennebooks, a charming bookshop in the lower village of Kennebunkport. 

When I wrote of the experience in May, I remember likening it to a really good first date. That sense of connectedness, coupled with excitement, promise, and hope for a future of good.  I remember describing the evening to friends, family, coworkers (anyone who'd listen, really), and getting goosebumps every time, because that's how amazing it was.  This time it was different--no less magical, but I found myself overcome with an emotion that I hadn't felt for a long time, if ever. 

My friend Becky and I made the trek down to Kennebunkport, about an hour away from home, to hear the reading, and of course, catch up with Caitlin again.  After working all day, I was so excited to have my first real evening out in a very long time, and of course for me, what could be better than having it revolve around a book and a friend?  (I admit, 10+ years ago, my idea of an evening out would have been an entirely different scenario.  Have I actually become a grown up?)

Becky and I were practically giddy. We both have toddlers (17 and 15 months old respectively) and while it was hard to leave them for the night with their dads, there was something gratifying about the impending evening ahead. We arrived at the bookshop just shy of 6:30, heading upstairs to the quaint, low ceiling room where Caitlin would begin her talk.  There were six others there, plus the bookshop owner (?).  Caitlin greeted Becky and I like we were old friends, enveloping us into a hug, and immediately asking about our children.  Finally, the bookshop owner sternly got her attention, indicating the need to start.  We sat in the back, a decision I was later grateful for.  She began...

Unlike our gathering at Becky's home, where we drove the conversation with our questions, and the atmosphere was informal, this reading was different.  Becky and I were definitely the youngest attendees, except for one British man whose age I couldn't determine, and who came with his mother.  The others had at least a couple, if not several, decades on us.  We were also the only ones who had actually read her book.  There was a tangible dichotomy between Becky and me, and the others, which could just be generational but likely also social and political.  I couldn't help but wonder throughout what they were thinking, especially one rather crusty gentleman up front, who watched and listened rather stoically to Caitlin, and remained emotionless throughout.

Soon enough however, I was lost in my own reverie.  Despite the fact that I had read and absorbed this book, and participated in what was a robust and thorough discussion, to sit there among the strangers and listen to parts being read was like experiencing it for the first time.  

I can't really describe what it is about this book or Caitlin that evokes such an emotional reaction in me.  It's not that I relate to her upbringing, in rural Gouldsboro, Maine, where her family basically lived off the grid for several years, without the common creature comforts most of us take for granted.  It's not that I relate to her desire to 'go west' like so many pioneers before us, to seek some fortune or attain a little piece of the American dream.  And it's not even that I agree with everything she says or how she views the world and our place in it.  

It's more that I find her poignancy in describing all these things so real and so true to how I think I would want to live in this world, if I wasn't too afraid or unsure in how to begin doing so.  Simply put, her story inspires and makes me feel like being a better person, not only for myself, but for my partner and my child.

I was grateful for sitting in the back last night because there were times when I could just barely keep from welling up, and at times, felt like I could have burst into full blown sobs. Out of the corner of my teary eye, I saw Becky discreetly wiping her eyes too, so I know she felt the same.  At the end of the reading, as she does with all her groups, Caitlin passed out the words to the song that inspired the title of her book--Woody Gutherie's "This Land Was Made for You and Me" or as we know it from childhood as "This Land is Your Land".  With unabashed enthusiasm, Caitlin leads her group to sing the song out loud in its entirety.  Have you ever listened to the words? I mean really listened?  I could barely get through the second stanza.

When it was over, we hung back, waiting for the small crowd to disperse. Becky had her book signed, and we meandered our way to the exit. We hugged her goodbye, wished her luck, and made our way out into the starry summer night.  It was almost 8:45pm.  As much as we wanted to discuss, dinner was on our minds.

Kennebunkport is familiar territory for me--my folks live in the next town over, and some of my most cherished childhood memories have been here during salty summers and at times, glacial winters.  Thursday night in August at 9pm meant that the streets were bustling, lights glittering off the still docks, and pedestrians weaving through the village square, looking for a late night meal as in our case, or to patron one of the many shops.  My heart sank a little as I looked up to see what used to be a familiar spot---sitting atop a candle shop, there used to be my favorite store. Can you guess? A bookshop. It used to be called The Bookport. During the Christmas Prelude, that was one of our first stops to sample the cookies and punch, and view the majestic tree adorned with lobster buoys and traps, that sat center stage in the square.  A few years ago, it closed, was another less inspiring shop for awhile, and now, a glaringly tacky sign boasts "Psychic Tarot Card Readings."    My father's old adage of "Nothing stays the same" couldn't possibly ring more true.
The Bookport is pictured to the right, with the lit tree in its window.

One of my favorite restaurants from years past is appropriately named, Alisson's. (Yet quite obviously spelled incorrectly.) Fortunately for the most part, they have remained the same and I was able to get my fried clam fix that I'd been hankering for since knowing we'd be coming to Kport.  Despite the fact that it was a Thursday night, getting later by the minute, and we both had to work early the next morning, we ordered our food and sat talking about the evening, dissecting what the attendees might have been thinking, and then inserting our own thoughts and feelings about the night.  A little before ten or maybe just slightly after, we packed it in.  The hour ride flew by as we did what new moms do best: compared pregnancies, boasted about our children, and griped about there not being enough time during the day to see our babes when working a full time job.

After dropping Becky off, I made my way the 12 or so minutes to my house, pulling in to see the light left on for me, and a dog eagerly awaiting me to let her out.  The air was sweet and clear, whispering the slightest hint of crispness that comes early this time of year to warn of fall.  It was 11:20.  Back inside, I crept upstairs, ready to drop into bed, knowing that in a few short hours the alarm would be irritatingly beeping me awake.  I paused to peek in on G, who slept soundly.   In sleep, he reached out for Giraffe, as usual seeking out its tail, before settling back into deep slumber.  Humming softly, I looked down at his sweet face, relaxed and dreaming. No cares, no worries.  

This land was made for you and me.

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